Jesse Randall (J.R.) Baxter Jr., gospel music composer and publisher, was born on December 8, 1887, in Lebanon, Alabama. The "Sand Mountain native" was a prolific song composer and co-founder of the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. He was known as "Pap" to his close friends. He learned the fundamentals of harmony and gospel music from T. B. Mosley and A. J. Showalter, and began teaching while he was still a student. He subsequently learned hymn writing from James Rowe, Charles H. Gabriel, and others. By 1943 he had composed more than 500 songs; by the time of his death his song lyrics numbered in the thousands. Several gospel quartets were named for him. As a publisher, he put out thousands of songs and sold hundreds of thousands of songbooks. Numerous singers and directors learned from him.
In 1918 Baxter married Clarice Howard, later called "Ma" Baxter. Not long afterward, Baxter became manager of the A. J. Showalter office in Texarkana, Texas. In 1926 he and V. O. Stamps started the Stamps-Baxter Company, which had offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Texas; and, later, Pangburn, Arkansas. Stamps-Baxter, which published hymnals and sponsored traveling quartets and radio programs, grew to be the world's largest gospel music business. After Stamps died in 1940 Baxter moved the business headquarters to Dallas and became president and general manager, a position he held until his death on January 21, 1960. He is an inductee of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame .
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Mrs. J. R. (Ma) Baxter and Videt Polk, comps., Gospel Song Writers Biography (Dallas: Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, 1971). Shirley L. Beary, The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company: A Continuing Tradition, 1926–1976 (D.M.A. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1977).
Business, Promotion, Broadcasting, and Technology
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Baxter, Jesse Randall [J.R.],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 5, 2006
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 20, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: